Audubon, Buffalo

Racist History Calls For A Name Change For This Bird Conservation Society

The Buffalo chapter of the National Audubon Society is separating itself from a racist history by dropping its name.

According to The Buffalo News, the chapter voted to remove “Audubon” from its name. The outlet noted that the society’s namesake, John James Audubon, bought and sold enslaved Africans and was involved in eugenics work. The chapter will designate a committee to vote on a new name. 

Eleven board members voted in favor of the name change, and one voted against it, according to the chapter’s Executive Director Ed Siriann. The chapter has taken a stand to protect diverse groups of people who are committed to nature and ornithology. Siriann said, according to The Buffalo News, “But recent discoveries about his [John James Audubon] character in the past significantly changed how we feel about being named after him, and we don’t feel our vision and the work we do needs to be named after him.” The executive director said, “We don’t want anyone to feel unwelcome here. Mother Nature is everyone’s mother.” 

Chapters of the leading bird conservation organization nationwide have already divorced from the name, including Seattle and Washington D.C., and others in San Francisco, Detroit, Portland, and Maine are changing their names, according to The Buffalo News.

The name change has only taken effect at the chapter level. According to the outlet, the national society’s board of directors voted to keep its name the same after a year of consideration. 

According to the Golden Gate chapter of the National Audubon Society, the artist behind “Birds of America” was born “out of wedlock” in what is now considered Haiti. Audubon’s father was a French naval officer, and his mother’s identity is unclear. Ironically, some historians have speculated that Audubon’s mother may have been an enslaved woman of color.

In a case of bird watching while Black, Black Enterprise previously reported Christian Cooper was falsely accused of harassing a “Karen” in Central Park in 2020. Cooper is now the host of National Geographic’s Extraordinary Birder.